The State faces a shortage of NCERT and CBSE textbooks, despite reassurances from the authorities. Will the situation improve in the coming days?
In its final judgment on the issue of shortage of textbooks, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court, in October 2006, directed the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) to supply textbooks in time, before May 1, for every academic year. Even as this deadline has approached, parents and students are running from pillar to post in search of textbooks. Despite the reassuring announcements, the council and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have not been able to keep their promise of timely delivery of textbooks in Kerala. The official website of the board carried an announcement recently that textbooks for classes 6 to 12 will be available at its regional offices in Ajmer, Allahabad, Chennai, Panchkula, Guwahati and Delhi. The communication said that books would be available at these offices on all working days. The council authorities had assured the Kerala High Court that more efficient systems would be ensured for supply of textbooks. "Based on the board's announcement, we had contacted the regional office in Chennai. The authorities said that they were yet to receive all the books," says Ramachandran Nair, a parent in Kochi. Students of Kendriya Vidyalayas bore the brunt of the shortage, with classes having started in the first week of April. Silpa Vipin and Shweta Vipin, class 10 students of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kadavanthra, Kochi, say it has been one month since classes began and textbooks for social studies and Hindi (Krithika) have not been received. A classmate of theirs managed to secure a textbook. There was no other option but to take copies of the initial chapters from the original version, they add. Parents are the most worried lot, making frequent trips to the nearest book dealer these days. Rathie Menon, a mother in Kochi, says: "From March second week, I have been visiting the book dealer for the class 10 books. We have not yet received the social studies and Hindi textbooks. The book dealer says that there is no stock. They are also not able to give us an approximate date on which the books will arrive at the store. We are in a real fix. Parents depend a lot on NCERT books, as they are believed to be authentic. The prices of NCERT books are cheaper than those of the textbooks printed by private publishers," she said. The booksellers are facing the wrath of parents. Heated arguments are a common sight at bookshops in Kochi. "Parents are under the impression that we are hoarding books. But the truth is that there is a serious shortage similar to the one that we faced last academic year," says Peter Mechery, president of the All-Kerala Book Sellers' Association. "Books for classes 2, 4 and 7 have not reached us, even after the commencement of classes for students of Kendriya Vidyalaya." Mr. Mechery says the books published by the CBSE are also short in supply. "We had written to the board authorities in New Delhi in April, saying that there was an acute shortage of textbooks. The association received a letter from them saying that textbooks were available in sufficient quantity at the board's regional office in Chennai. Despite repeated attempts, we have not been able to get adequate textbooks from the regional office," he says. Dispelling fears of shortage in the market, the NCERT authorities say that there is no need for panic and the demand will be met without delay. Vipin Dewan, Business Manager, Regional Production and Distribution Centre, NCERT, Bangalore, says: "The estimated requirement of NCERT textbooks in Kerala is about 40 lakh this year. Last year, it was about 36 lakh. We have already supplied 30 lakh books this year. In Kerala, the distribution is being done through 11 wholesale dealers. The supply line is much better this time compared to last year. Physical distribution might take some time. There is a transit time of 10 days for transporting books from Delhi to Kerala," he says. Mr. Dewan says that care has been taken not to let the situation affect the classes of students of classes 10 and 12. "The Part I textbooks for these classes are available in the market. There is no shortage of textbooks for classes 1, 3, 6, 9 and 11, as most of these are re-prints. History and politics textbooks for class 10 would be released by this week. The delay for textbooks for classes 2, 4, 7 came, as most of them are new. But we would start releasing it in another few days," Mr. Dewan told The Hindu Education Plus on April 25. "Parents need not call their relatives in New Delhi or any other place for textbooks. We will complete distribution of the entire books for Kerala by the first week of May," he says.